U.S. Briefs 12-6-11

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Israeli government pulls U.S. ad campaign

A screen grab of an advertisement from the Israeli government's canceled U.S. campaign. Credit: YouTube.The Israeli government dropped the controversial ad campaign that urged Israelis to return back to Israel after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu intervened, according to reports.

Some American Jews were outraged at the campaign, which had been running ads in Boston, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, California, New York City and Hollywood, Fla. Opponents claimed the campaign sent the message that Israelis should not raise children in the U.S. or marry Americans, and return to Israel. The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) called the ad campaign “Outrageous and insulting.”

JFNA also sent an email to its members stating: “While we recognize the motivations behind the ad campaign, we are strongly opposed to the messaging that American Jews do not understand Israel. We share the concerns many of you have expressed that this outrageous and insulting message could harm the Israel-Diaspora relationship.”

Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren said the campaign was “not meant to cause insult.”

—JointMedia News Service

NYC raises $1 million for Tel Aviv Jewish museum

The city of New York recently held a recent gala to celebrate the “Museum of the Jewish People” at Beit Hatfutsot in Tel Aviv, at which $1 million was raised toward the museum.

The new museum will tell the story of the Jewish people from biblical times to modern times Abraham and is intended to inspire a feeling of connection to Jewish history, according to a press release.

“I’m elated by the fact that this new museum tells the ongoing, remarkable story of the Jewish people both in Israel and abroad using the most cutting edge methods, and will be a source of inspiration for Jewish educators,” said Avinoam Armoni, CEO of Beit Hatfutsot.

Five hundred guests attended the party at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Manhattan, which was co-chaired by Eugene A. Ludwig and Leonid Nevzlin, Chairman of the International Board of Governors of Beit Hatfutsot. The NADAV Foundation, the Israeli government and donations from around the world are among the funding sources for the new museum.

—JointMedia News Service

Suspect arrested for New Jersey anti-Semitic vandalism

Police have arrested a suspect in connection with the recent smashing of windows at several Jewish businesses in Highland Park, NJ. Vandals threw bricks through the glass windows, according to media reports.

Richard Green was charged with five counts of criminal mischief. If convicted, he will face a maximum penalty of 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000.

A few other Jewish businesses in nearby New Brunswick were also targeted on Nov. 29, the anniversary of the 1947 United Nations vote to create the state of Israel. Patrons at a local falafel store were also reportedly threatened with a “second Kristallnacht,” although it not clear if these threats are related to the vandalism. Windows of the Rutgers University campus Chabad were also smashed.

Anti-Defamation League New Jersey Regional Board Chairman Lawrence Cooper called the vandalism “shocking.”

“We are appalled by the targeting of Jewish stores and Jewish campus institutions at Rutgers,” he said.

—JointMedia News Service

OCR to investigate ZOA claims of Anti-Semitism at Rutgers

Rutgers University. PD-US.The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) agreed to formally investigate a claim by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) of anti-Semitic harassment and discrimination at New Jersey’s Rudgers University. If true the allegations could violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a ZOA press release reported.

ZOA’s claim alleges that the Outreach Coordinator for Rutgers’ Center for Middle East Studies physically threatened a Jewish student and called him a “that racist, Zionist pig” on Facebook. He also invited other people to post hateful messages on the student’s “fb hate page.” Another part of the investigation is the anti-Israel group “Belief Awareness Knowledge and Action” (BAKA). The group reportedly hosted an event, which it advertised as free to the public. However students allege that when a group of Jewish students and Israel supporters showed up, they were suddenly charged a fee.

 “We urge the agency to thoroughly and vigorously investigate Rutgers’ response to campus anti-Semitism; the ZOA will assist in any way we can, so that Jewish students there will be assured the kind of campus environment that every student deserves” said Morton A. Klein, ZOA National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice.

—JointMedia News Service

Alan Gross’s mother and White House officials plead for his release

Alan and Judy Gross in Jerusalem, 2005. Credit: Gross family.The mother of Alan Gross, who is imprisoned in Cuba, has spoken in a video statement pleading for his release. Simultaneously, White House officials have also called on Havana to release the American prisoner, Voice of America reported.

The law firm Chlopak Leohnard Schecter and Associates released the video in which Evelyn Gross, 89, directly appeals Cuban President Raúl Castro on December 3, the second anniversary of Gross’ incarceration. White House spokesman Jay Carney also said it was “past time” to allow Gross to return home to his family.

Gross was arrested for allegedly bringing communications equipment into Cuba while working for a private firm contracted with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Gross and his employers claim he was only trying to set up Internet access to Cuba’s Jewish community. Despite these claims, Gross was arrested for alleged “Acts against the Independence and Territorial Integrity of the State.”

Gross’s wife Judy recently told JointMedia News Service that she is able to speak to her husband on the phone once a week.

Evelyn Gross’s statement to the Cuban president can be found at http://gallery.me.com/torquefilms#100137/Evelyn Gross, Statement 11-30-11b&bgcolor=black.

—JointMedia News Service

2,000 young Jews can visit Israel thanks to American billionaire

Sheldon Adelson. PD-US.Jewish-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson has doubled his annual donation to the Taglit-Birthright organization, which sends more young Jews to tour Israel each summer and winter, the Jerusalem Post reported.

According to Adelson’s wife Miriam, the couple couldn’t bear seeing thousands and thousands of young adults who wanted to visit Israel not able to go so they increased their 2011 gift to $10 million.

 “Greater participation means we can change the lives of more young adults,” she said. In total Adelson has given more than $100 million to the program. Thanks to the additional donation this year, an additional 2,000 students who applied but were waitlisted will now be able to go, according to the Israel National News.

“This year alone, the Adelsons will enable a total of 4,000 young adults to visit Israel. These are 4,000 lives changed. These are 4,000 people who almost certainly will identify more closely as Jews and with Israel,” said International CEO of Taglit-Birthright Israel, Gidi Mark.

—JointMedia News Service

Owner of Florida Judaica shop says anti-Semitism may have led to fire

Michael Katz, owner of the Holyland Judaica store in Hollywood, Fla., said a recent arson at his shop was either “random vandalism” or “anti-Semitism,” according to the Sun Sentinel.

“There was nothing taken [from the store]. So you have to ask, ‘Why focus on a place like this?’” Katz told the newspaper.

Katz estimated that the damage from the Dec. 1 fire amounted to $100,000. Local law enforcement told the Sun Sentinel that they found no clear evidence of a hate crime, but community members—much like Katz—mulled over that possibility.

“It wasn’t the first thing I thought of, but anti-Semitism is always in the back of your mind in cases like this,” Jacob Tangir, a physician who stopped by the store Sunday searching for a religious text, told the newspaper.

Posted on December 5, 2011 .